Africa Progress Report 2015

Power, People, Planet

For Sub-Saharan Africa, 2015 is a turning point. The summits on sustainable development, financing and climate change are swinging the spotlight not only onto Africa’s needs to accelerate development and adapt to global warming, but also onto the region’s urgent energy crisis. Two in three Africans lack access to electricity.

But this crisis is also a moment of great opportunity, as we demonstrate in the Africa Progress Report 2015, Power People Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities. Demand for modern energy is set to surge, fuelled by economic growth, demographic change and urbanisation. As the costs of low-carbon energy fall, Africa could leapfrog into a new era of power generation. Utility reform, new technologies and new business models could be as transformative in energy as the mobile phone has been in telecommunications.

Renewable energy is at the forefront of the changes sweeping Africa, which is registering some of the most remarkable advances in solar, geothermal and wind power. With world leaders due to meet in Paris in December to settle on a new global climate change deal, Africa has a chance to show the way to a low-carbon future – while putting in place the policies needed to reduce its vulnerability to the effects of climate change.

A “triple win” is within the region’s grasp, as renewable technologies create opportunities to increase agricultural productivity, improve resilience to climate change, and contribute to long-term reductions in dangerous carbon emissions.

The Africa Progress Report 2015 explains the bold steps that leaders globally and in Africa must take to achieve this vision. Above all, the report shows that the global climate moment is also Africa’s moment – Africa’s moment to lead the world.

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Affordable and reliable electricity underpins every aspect of social and economic life. But Sub-Saharan Africa has an energy crisis that demands urgent political attention. Two in every three Africans, around 621 million in total, have no access to electricity at all.

The consequences of energy deficits have yet to register with sufficient force on the policy agendas of Africa governments. The same is true of the wider international community. Without universal access to energy services of adequate quality and quantity, countries cannot sustain dynamic growth, build more inclusive societies and accelerate progress towards eradicating poverty. When health systems are unable to provide preventive and curative services, people who are already vulnerable face heightened risks. And when shortages of electricity hamper schooling, children lose a chance to escape poverty and build secure livelihoods.

Viewed from an investment perspective, replacing existing fuels with modern energy represents a widely neglected market opportunity. Access to modern energy systems could cut household costs, with benefits for expenditure and investment in other areas. Just halving costs would save US$5 billion for people living below US$2.50, or US$36 per household. Plausible price reductions of 80 per cent would raise these figures to US$8 billion overall, US$58 per household. How big is the investment gap that has to be closed if Africa is to transform its energy system? We estimate it at US$55 billion a year.


"The effects of climate change are being felt all over the planet, but not equally" - Kofi Annan

The effects of climate change are being felt all over the planet, but not equally